Art Talk | Alison Jackson
Alison Jackson is a Canberra-based Silversmith who has been on our radar for quite some time now. Her organic and sculptural designs include jewellery and tableware pieces - all of which have a self-confessed ‘anthropomorphic’ quality. Alison’s design journey has been an organic one, what started as a passion during her teen years has turned into her career, which has gone from strength to strength. Today, she works alongside her partner Dan Lorrimer, to create her unique pieces. We caught up with Alison to find out how she turned her side-project into her full-time job and why she considers the art of silversmithing so special.
Hi Alison, can you tell us a little about the journey to where you are today? My journey is a little along the lines of - interest becomes passion, passion becomes career. It started as something fun when I was young, tinkering away in my dad’s small workshop under the house. It then became regular after school classes that pushed my interest in metal further, until it seemed like a good idea to study Silversmithing at university. At this point it had become a passion and I wanted to find a way to make it work as a means to earn a living.
How did you first get into working as a Silversmith? Silversmithing is often used as a broad term to describe all things made in silver but the origin of the name is someone who makes hollow vessels in silver, generally using a hammering technique called raising. Raising is something I really enjoy and was the main focus for much of my time at university and silversmithing has since been a focal point for my work. It really is amazing what you can create with a hammer, a stake (a type of curved anvil) and a piece of silver.
As an artist, what theme do you always return to? There isn’t so much a theme I return to, but more a feeling I put into all my work - when I make an object it always seems to have an individual personality, a character. I tend make work that is inherently anthropomorphic.
What do you love most about what you do? Making with my hands is by far the thing I love most. Working in silver is definitely at the top of my list and my favourite metal to work with. I also love developing my skills as a creative business owner, there are always challenges to overcome, new ways of thinking and different approaches.
How do you challenge yourself? Creatively, it’s important that I work on my own projects and designs, not just those for our collections or client work. I need to have studio days where I play at the bench, experiment, pursue new ideas and refuel my creative ideas. It’s hard sometimes to dedicate time for this, but it’s so important for my creativity and benefits all my other work in the long run. For me the greatest challenge is the continually changing world of business. Running any small business is tricky, and running one in a small creative industry is no exception. I’ve been working with a wonderful business coach for the last couple of years, Pru Chapman. That has been one of the best decisions for me personally and for my business. It’s been challenging and scary to take leaps in my business I never thought I would, and that I previously didn’t feel ready for, but having a mentor who understands my business and where I want it to go has given me so much more confidence.
How long did it take you to fine-tune your silversmithing skills? What’s the best advice you would give someone starting out? I have been silversmithing for about 10 years now. It’s a very versatile medium that can be applied to many different metals and forms. It’s a process you continue to learn and improve on as you master it. I hope to be fine-tuning my skills for many years to come.
The best advice I’ve got for someone starting out is; if it’s something you’re passionate about, give it absolutely everything you’ve got. Try not to listen to the people who tell you that you can’t make a living doing it. It’s all about how you decide to run your business for your lifestyle. Diversity in your income stream is key, especially in the beginning.
Where do you go for inspiration? It’s not so much a place, more of a head space for me - going for a good long walk out in nature really helps to get my mind into gear. I find lots of smalls ideas join together to create the inspiration for my work.
What are you looking forward to in 2019? Building our very own permanent workshop and settling into our new home in the country town of Braidwood.
I usually wake up at: 7:00am.
My perfect day would involve: Delicious coffee to kick off the day, a bushwalk with my partner Dan, poking around in a good old junk shop, ice-cream in the afternoon and a delicious home cooked dinner by the fire.
I am inspired by: Interesting creative businesses and the people behind them.
Best advice I’ve ever received: My mum has always said to me, ‘All anyone can ask of you is to do your very best.’
I couldn’t live without: My partner in crime (life, business and everything else!) Dan.
My favourite daily ritual: A delicious breakfast smoothie.
I recently discovered: Lucy & Yak overalls and the Raw Milk Podcast.
On my wish-list: To go back to Iceland.
I’m currently reading: Slow Down and Grow Something by Byron Smith and Tess Robinson.
And listening to: Saevil Row’s Deskside Spotify playlist.
My guilty pleasure: Sour straps… always the blue ones!
My mantra is: Just start - don’t wait for the perfect beginning.